HD Box/Computer/Broadcaster/Video Encoder
There’s no shortage of names for the function of putting together your audio and video and then formatting all the data for streaming. It’s the work of transcoding devices (or “encoders”). Matrox (another Ministry Tech partner) has a range of devices to ensure smooth switching between input sources and options among data streaming protocols. After making sure your Internet connection is rock-solid, this may be the most important hardware choice you make. That’s another way of saying it’s a choice you shouldn’t make alone, especially if you’re a novice, and also a choice you shouldn’t try to save money on.
The folks at Blackmagic offer a variety of hardware and software compatibility choices in this area as well. Whatever vendor you choose, make sure their hardware and output [are] compatible with nearly every livestreaming platform including YouTube, Facebook and Twitch (there are more than a dozen livestream platforms!
There are also laptop-based software solutions for this task: with an HDMI or SDI video source, you can immediately stream your video content by plugging it into a web presenter and your computer, enabling you to broadcast professional-quality live streams.
- Don’t forget the accessories.
Wouldn’t it be embarrassing to lose battery power during a livestream, or have someone drop a camera at a critical moment? Create a gear bag with every imaginable back-up item: batteries, lenses, cables, tripods or anything else that may be a requirement unique to your location. The more varied the settings and locations, the more accessories you’re going to need. (And never forget duct tape, because it fixes anything.)
Like so many hardware-based systems, some of the learning curve comes through practice and experience, which leads us to the final component necessary for every livestream launch:
Once you decide on equipment and work-flow, make sure you have a dedicated full-time or volunteer staff to assist in production and streaming. Start with an experienced hand [and] you will avoid broadcasting your mistakes around the world! For some churches this may mean hiring a professional to get up and running; other churches may have tech-geniuses in the congregation and not even know it!
Next, make it part of this person’s job description to cross-train other techs. A commitment to livestreaming means consistently presenting your webcasts at predictable times. This means having more than one person with the know-how. Otherwise, you’re just one sick-day or unexpected event from missing a webcast.
Finally, take time to research the experiences of other churches. Vimeo’s subsidiary Livestream (another Ministry Tech partner) has an outstanding downloadable PDF resource that not only details the nuts-and-bolts decisions of gear and gadgets but also provides case studies, which will allow you to see how other congregations have expanded their reach beyond their physical locations. (Livestream also produces innovative hardware like Mevo, where cameras and streaming are combined in one unit.)
Livestreaming multiplies the reach of your church. While there may be certain aspects of community worship that will always require face-to-face fellowship, you can serve the marginalized through technologies like live streaming. The essentials of the Great Commission will never change: we should go into all the world and make disciples; but the church’s methods have continually changed over the centuries. Livestreaming is one more modern change to help the church fulfill its unchanging calling.